Morris Philipson, former director of the University of Chicago Press (from 1967 to 2000), passed away on November 3, 2011, at the age of 85. We asked some of Philipson’s friends and colleagues how they would remember Morris, and their thoughts follow below:
I worked at Chicago for ten years, from 1973 to 1983, half that time directly for Morris. He was brilliant, exacting, mercurial, funny, and loyal to the authors and people at the Press who held up his high standards. Like many others who went on to run other publishing companies, he taught me through example (mostly good) how to be a publisher. More than that, he shaped the Press’s publishing program in ways that few directors attempt or manage. Those were glory years: The Lisle Letters, which more timid publishers would have abandoned; Derrida, whom he apparently understood; Mythologies; the Verdi Edition, which he supported even if his taste didn’t run to high opera. The Chicago Manual of Style, Kate Turabian, the list goes on. He was willing to support his editors even when he was skeptical, a philosophy that led to the grand and enduring success of A River Runs Through It. The letter that Norman Maclean wrote to Knopf, who had turned it down (and that was reprinted in Harper’s in 1993) says it all. Morris’s death has brought back warm memories of my first publishing years and close colleagues who have stayed and moved on. We were fortunate to experience that remarkable era first hand.
—Wendy Strothman, The Strothman Agency